I suspect that each of us can identify poets who have had significant influence on our writing. Perhaps some of these who mentor us, whether or not they are aware of their influence, enjoy renown—Poet Laureates, Pulitzer or Nobel Prize winners, for example. Others may be more obscure poets or even those we have met here at dVerse Poets’ Pub and in other online poetry communities.
Those of us who have not had the advantage of higher education in our art still have the opportunity to learn independently by reading books on craft of poetry and, above all, by drinking in the work of poets whom we admire. Read, read, read is perhaps the wisest advice offered to writers of all ilk. My addiction to the intoxicating world of literary art is supported by the ease of access offered by the Internet and through my Kindle which offers free downloads of so many of our poetic predecessors.
I invite you to take a moment, a pencil, and a piece of paper. Now, sit back and list a dozen or so wordsmiths whose art has helped shape your own. Here’s a sampling of those whom I’ve come up with: Mary Oliver, Jane Kenyon, Stanley Kunitz, Basho, William Wordsworth, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Jane Hirschfield, Robert Frost, William Carlos Williams, Wallace Stevens, Ted Kooser, Dorianne Laux,…oh, and I haven’t even started to think about you, my fellow pup-crawlers.
A literary allusion in poetry is, simply put, a reference to another literary work. This can encompass sources such as mythology, the Bible, performance art, a novel, or, of course, another poem. Think of it as a sort of hypertext, linking the reader to another piece of literature, art, or any form of creative expression. Examples of literary allusion also include ekphrasis and response poetry. You are no doubt familiar with ekphrasis, when a work of visual art serves as the inspiration for a poem. A response poem is written, as it implies, in response to another poet, a sort of answering-back.
I will use a couple of my own poems as an example so that I don’t mess with copyright infringement.
A Response to Robert Frost’s Fire and Ice:
What Do You Say, Robert?
I think the world will slowly expire,
no need for ice, nor even fire.
I fear Mother Earth will die of neglect,
with a whimper, a sigh.
Oh, I suspect
she will quietly
Do you flee
or imminent change?
Or do you both know
that nothing will ever
be the same?
Will I do the same
shatter in my world?
In Flanders Field
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
Fields of Flanders
Those flattened fields of Flanders
scream of battered souls
and muffled screams which pressed
beneath time’s tread has crushed
the cry of hurt beneath firm soil.
The heaving shape of shouldered pain
is locked by grasses -green terrain,
which grips and holds imprisoned fast,
the rotted world which once had passed:
in steady tread and muffled roar,
a raging spread of weeping sore.
The silence now holds heavy court
upon the place where thousands fought
and died with no-one there to see
them sucked beneath the seething sea;
a muddy grave which beckons still
with glutinous grin alive and well
beneath the veil of fragile green.
1988 – following a visit to the ‘trenches in Ypres. Poem used with permission.
Notice how Roslyn takes McCrae’s subject and theme and makes it her own, based on her experience of the place, using her own rhyme scheme and meter, imprinting her own emotions in this well-written poem.
For today’s prompt you are invited to jump into the waters of literary allusion. Here are a few ideas to get your muse in gear:
• Choose a poet/a poem that has influenced your own writing and bring your own unique experience to the topic.
• Allude to an existing literary work or piece of art in a poem of your own creation.
• Write a response poem. Answer back, either in agreement or opposition to the original piece.
• Write a poem in the style of one of your favorite poets. Be sure to reference the influential source. Include it, if it doesn’t infringe on copyrights…or provide a link if you are able.
• Allow the prompt to take you wherever you want to go. Just write.
To participate (and we hope you will):
• Write your poem and print it on your blog, citing the sources if you are able to, or providing a link.
• Access Mr. Linky at the bottom of this post and add your name and the direct URL of the poem from your blog or website.
• Visit other pubsters. Read and comment on their submissions, especially those who have made the effort to visit you.
• Enjoy your time creating and sharing your poetry. You never know…someday you may make another poet’s list of influencers!
For dVerse Poet’s Pub, I’m Victoria Slotto—happy to be your hostess at Meeting the Bar. Today, I’ll be on the road, but will catch up with you as soon as I can.